An American Airlines plane.
American Airlines filed a lawsuit against Skiplagged.com on Thursday.The filing comes one month after the carrier made headlines for punishing a teenager for trying to skiplag.Both United Airlines and Southwest Airlines have sued Skiplagged.com in the past.
American Airlines has had enough of Skiplagged.com.
The Texas-based carrier filed a lawsuit Thursday against the website, a fare-finding service that helps people book “skiplag tickets,” or flights with the layover city intended as the destination.
The suit, filed in a Texas federal court, accuses Skiplagged of deceiving travelers by selling American Airlines flights without a proper agency agreement, putting the tickets at immediate risk of invalidation. It also accused the site of copyright infringement over its use of American’s logos.
“Many of the fares displayed on Skiplagged’s website are higher than what the consumer would pay if they simply booked a ticket on American’s website or through an actual authorized agent,” the suit says. “It is a classic bait and switch: draw consumers in with the promise of secret fares, and instead sell the consumer a ticket at a higher price.”
The airline is seeking injunctive relief to prevent the site from using American’s logos or publishing any fare information about its flights, as well as damages.
Skiplagged.com did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The filing comes about a month after American punished a teenager for attempting to skiplag on a flight from Florida to New York via his home of Charlotte. His North Carolina ID tipped off the gate agent.
According to the teen’s father, American quickly banned the 17-year-old from flying on the carrier again for three years because he broke their rules.
While American has been extremely vocal about its disdain for hidden-city tickets, it isn’t the only company to take a shot at Skiplagged.
In 2014, United Airlines and Orbitz sued the website just a year after its launch, accusing founder Aktarer Zaman for “unfair competition” and “deceptive behavior.”
Then, Southwest Airlines filed a lawsuit against Skiplagged in 2021 after it showed the airline’s ticket prices.
In the complaint, Southwest’s lawyers said the website is not authorized to “display Southwest fares or sell Southwest flights.”
Both lawsuits have either been dismissed or settled after lengthy court battles. United’s case was eventually thrown out because it was filed in Chicago and Zaman lived in New York City, while Southwest and Skiplagged settled outside of court in June 2023.
Why do airlines hate skiplagging so much?
‘Skiplagging’ has drawn a skeptical response on social media over the years.
To many people, skiplagging is the same thing as not eating your side of french fries or leaving the theater halfway through a movie. Others say airlines are actually the ones creating the problem because their pricing violates the basic laws of geometry.
Nevertheless, almost every carrier prohibits purchasing hidden-city tickets in their contract of carriage — that pesky document you agree to when you buy a plane ticket — because they see it as cheating the system.
Airlines price tickets at what they think people will pay, so they charge a premium for a more convenient nonstop flight versus a layover in a hub city.
But, if someone buys the cheaper one-stop flight with no intention to take the second leg, this could impact revenue. United Airlines and travel booking Orbitz accused Skiplagged of costing them $75,000 in their 2014 lawsuit.
American takes the concerns one step further, telling Insider that “anyone who knowingly or unknowingly” uses the hidden-city hack can cause “operational issues with checked bags and prevent other customers from booking a seat when they may have an urgent need to travel.”
“Intentionally creating an empty seat that could have been used by another customer or team member is an all-around bad outcome,” the company said.
Not everyone agrees, though.
In the case of the teen, Skiplagged COO Dan Gellert told Insider that American shouldn’t be able to ban him from the airline because it has a “monopoly” at Charlotte.
“American owns 90% of the market share in and out of Charlotte,” he said. “When you control the supply, you can control the pricing.”
The airport confirmed Gellert’s number, telling Insider on Friday that American held 90% of the market between its mainline and regional operations in the first six months of 2023.
According to the airport’s 2022 financial report, American controlled 92% of enplanements last year. By comparison, Delta Air Lines held 3.3% and United claimed just 1.5% in 2022 — the remaining 3.4% being shared between seven domestic and international carriers.
“American has effectively banned [the teen] largely from traveling out of Charlotte — and largely traveling, minus the handful of destinations offered by other airlines,” Gellert told Insider.